Currency in Finland

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Currency in Finland

Finland has the euro (EUR, €) as its sole currency along with 23 other countries that use this common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of 327 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Finland does not use the 1 and 2 cent coins; instead all sums are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. The coins are, however, still legal tender and there are even small quantities of Finnish 1c and 2c coins, highly valued by collectors. It is common to omit cents and the euro sign from prices, and use the comma as a decimal separator: "5,50" thus means five euros and fifty cents.

Getting or exchanging money is rarely a problem, as ATMs ("Otto") are common and they can be operated with international credit and debit cards (Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard, Maestro). Currencies other than the euro are generally not accepted, although the Swedish krona may be accepted in Åland and northern border towns like Tornio. Money changers are common in the bigger cities (the Forex chain is ubiquitous) and typically have longer opening hours and faster service than banks. Credit cards are widely accepted, but you will be asked for identification if you purchase more than €50 (and may be asked to show it even for smaller purchases). Visa Electron and Visa Debit cardreaders are found in all major and most minor shops, so carrying large amounts of cash is not usually necessary.

As a rule, tipping is never necessary in Finland and restaurant bills already include service charges. That said, taxi fares and other bills paid by cash are are occasionally rounded up to the next convenient number. Cloakrooms (narikka) in nightclubs and better restaurants often have non-negotiable fees (usually clearly signposted, €3 is standard), and - in the few hotels that employ them - hotel porters will expect around the same per bag.

Costs

Declared the world's most expensive country in 1990, prices have since abated somewhat but are still steep by most standards. Rock-bottom traveling if staying in hostel dorms and self-catering costs at least €25/day and it's well worth doubling that amount. The cheapest hotels cost about €50 per night and more regular hotels closer to € 100. Instead of hotels or hostels, look for holiday cottages, especially when travelling in a group and off-season, you can find a full-equipped cottage for €10-15 per person a night. Camp-sites typically cost between €10 and €20 per tent.

Museums and tourist attractions have an entrance fee in the range of €5-25. Using public transport costs a few euros per day and depends on the city. One-way travel between major cities by train or by bus costs between €20 and €100, depending on the distance.

Note that a VAT of 24% is charged for nearly everything, but by law this must be included in the displayed price. Non-EU residents can get a tax refund for purchases above €40 at participating outlets, just look for the Tax-Free Shopping logo.

Shopping

As you might expect given the general price level, souvenir shopping in Finland isn't exactly cheap. Traditional buys include Finnish puukko knives, handwoven ryijy rugs and every conceivable part of a reindeer. For any Lappish handicrafts, look for the "Sámi Duodji" label that certifies it as authentic.

Popular brands for modern (or timeless) Finnish design include Marimekko clothing, Iittala glass, Arabia ceramics, Kalevala Koru jewelry, Pentik interior design and, if you don't mind the shipping costs, Artek furniture by renowned architect and designer Alvar Aalto. Kids and not a few adults love Moomin characters, which fill up souvenir store shelves throughout the country.

Beware of limited Finnish shopping hours. For smaller shops, normal weekday opening hours are 09:00-18:00, but most shops close early on Saturday and are closed entirely on Sundays. Larger shops and department stores are generally open until 21:00 on weekdays and 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Stores are allowed to stay open until 18:00 on Sundays (21:00 around Christmas). Smaller stores have no limitations. During national holidays, almost all stores are closed. Shopping hours for small and speciality stores in small towns and in the countryside are often much shorter than big cities, but most national chains keep the same hours throughout the country.

Convenience stores like the ubiquitous R-Kioski keep somewhat longer hours, but still tend to be closed when you most need them. If in desperate need of basic supplies, gas station convenience stores are usually open on weekends and until late at night. Supermarkets in Helsinki's Asematunneli, underneath the Central Railway Station), are open until 22:00 every day of the year, except on Christmas Day (25 Dec). Gas stations are allowed by law to keep doors open 24/7 every day, even on holidays and Sundays. Some gas stations take benefit from this law and some don't. Most notable 24/7 Gas station-chains are "ABC" and Shell.

Most products need to be imported, and unfortunately this shows in the selection of goods and the pricing. It is not uncommon to see exactly the same product in different shops, at exactly the same price.

While shopkeepers may vehemently deny this to a foreigner, prices in smaller stores are by no means fixed. When buying hobby equipment, it is not uncommon to get 30 % discount (hint: Find the international price level from a web shop and print it out). The more specialized the goods, the higher the gap between Finnish and international prices, and mail order may save a lot of money. When a package is intercepted by customs (which is quite rate for physically small items), the buyer is notified and can pick it up from customs. VAT and possibly import duty are charged, bring a copy of the order that is then signed by the buyer and archived.

When buying consumer electronics, one should be aware that the shelf life of products can be rather long, especially if the shop isn't specialized in consumer electronics. There is a risk to buy an overpriced product that has already been discontinued by the manufacturer or replaced with a newer model.

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